This is the inaugural collection of short stories by the author, S.L. Kerns and is currently available only in digital format at Amazon.com. It manages to tug at the heart without dragging us down into misery.
Angel and the Weeper did that magical thing that all stories should do – it transported me back to Thailand. Having spent four years of my life in Bangkok, I could feel the sweat rolling off my face, I could smell the mixed materials of the Egyptian condominium, I knew the frustration of the static traffic. I enjoyed it more than I did previously, when I was a beta reader, because it’s always nice to see the final work.
Rolling Along These Tracks met me with a little sense of disassociation. The opening lines had absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the flash fiction. It was a bit of a red herring in that I expected the story to come back to the narrator’s role as Professor, but at no point did we get to see his concern for that come back. Instead, we got a frame narrative of a man struggling with the woes of divorce, one that wrapped up quite well, but one that trolled the reader a bit with its opening line.
Scrap Metal Memories reads as if it could have been a literal page out of the author’s life. Or maybe his father’s life. There is a kind of nostalgic bitterness in the story, like the narrator both loathes where he grew up and misses it to death. I actually really enjoyed this one as a complete vignette that shows a whole different side of life than someone like I would expect.
Nothing to be Proud of hits like a train, an ironic statement because it is a wholly different story in this collection that features trains. There is such depth of imagery and pathos in this story that it is hard not to be sucked into Lou’s life.
Ordinary Boyhood is lyrical and interesting, but each vignette is so limited – flashes of fiction (which I think is the point) – that readers are never given enough of a chance to see just how broad a vista these glimpses are. Nonetheless, in reading them, I can’t help but feel a little like a voyeur, gazing in on fragments of the author’s youth in Kentucky.
But it is towards the tail end of this collection that the true depth of Kerns’ creative play reaches the emotional weight that is hinted at in the previous entries. Like any musical album, a good creator must balance out the songs in a manner that best compliments the individual pieces. The titular story, Heartfelt Flows and Misery, is a love letter simple and pure, but wrapped up in a wonderful insight to the aforementioned musical world. Indeed, music is extremely prevalent in these last two stories, that one who didn’t know Kerns might think him some kind of a musician. It is my pleasure to confirm this, and even to gloat a little, as I’ve enjoyed many a nights with the entertainment of his funky bass. The bass is the soul of a song, and indeed, if these latter two stories (Heartfelt Flows, and the final entry, Mon Ami, le Papillion) are the soul of the book. From honky-tonk to rap to hip-hop, to Queen, these elements play the heart with the deep throbbing of a heart-broken ache. In Princess Bride, Miracle Max might accuse both narrators of suffering a need to “blathe”, but we can see though that. We know what’s really up.
And his name is Lloyd Kerns. Though we won’t be getting his debut novel until 2018 or 2019, I, for one, can’t wait to read more. The man can play words as well as he can play the four stings of a soul-shovel.
Get Heartfelt Flows and Misery at Amazon
Visit S. L. Kerns’ Facebook page
Visit S. L. Kerns’ website